Taro Kono (Photo: -/YNA/dpa)
TOKYO, Jan 11 -- Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono ordered the Maritime Self-Defense Force on Friday to dispatch a destroyer and two P-3C patrol planes to the Middle East on a mission aimed at ensuring sea lane safety in the region, Jiji Press reported.
The government sees an increasing need for the mission although tensions in the Middle East have heightened since the killing of a top Iranian commander by the United States last week and Tehran's retaliatory missile attacks on Iraqi bases being used by the US military this week, Jiji Press quoting officials as saying.
Members of the MSDF, as well as the destroyer and the patrol aircraft, will be dispatched based on the Defence Ministry establishment law's Article 4, which calls for conducting necessary research and studies. They will carry out surveillance activities in a bid to secure safe navigation by ships related to Japan.
MSDF members for the P-3C operations will leave Japan on Saturday. They will also engage in an ongoing antipiracy mission in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia. The Takanami destroyer will depart in early February and start its operations late that month.
The Middle East mission will cover the high seas in the Gulf of Oman, the northern part of the Arabian Sea, and the Gulf of Aden. The Strait of Hormuz, including Iranian waters, will be excluded from the operation areas. The mission is due to last one year and can be extended if necessary.
In the event of a contingency, an order for maritime security operations will be issued under the SDF law to make the MSDF engage in operations to protect Japanese ships.
Since the cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe endorsed the Middle East mission on Dec 27 last year, the MSDF has been working to secure a supply base and necessary equipment, and training its members in the run-up to the deployment.
During his five-day visit to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman from Saturday, Abe plans to explain the aim of the MSDF mission to leaders of the Middle East countries.